Unconvincing Ireland overcome Italy in opener

By Thomas Crean

Photo: Conor Lawless

Ireland 29-11 Italy

Ireland brushed Italy aside with a disappointing display at Croke Park this afternoon.

The grand slam holders never really got out of second gear in an opening RBS Six Nations clash that was littered with errors from both sides.

Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara put his recent dismal form aside to display a confident all round performance. His first kick of the day made him the first player to achieve 500 points in the Six Nations championship.

The opening exchanges were relatively even in terms of possession until O’Gara struck Ireland’s first points from a penalty after ten minutes.

The Irish then began to assert their dominance, most notably when O’Gara fed Andrew Trimble for a mazy run down the left, only to be stopped metres short of the Italian line.

However the recycled ball was switched swiftly to the opposite wing, where Jamie Heaslip finished an excellent team move with a try in the corner.

Ireland’s class was shining through, most notably when a majestic moment of skill by Captain Brian O’Driscoll narrowly failed to send one of his teammates through for his sides second try.

Italy opened their account via a Gower penalty on 27 minutes, only for it to be quickly cancelled out by another O’Gara set piece. The away side were constantly relying on their pack to try and gain territory, with minimal effect.

Garcia was sin-binned for a dangerous spear on 33 minutes, as the Irish capitalised by taking another three points from the resulting penalty.

The game was effectively over as a contest when Tomás O’Leary profited from a poor Italian lineout to ground the ball on 35 minutes.

However, the Azzurri finished the half with a five points of their own as Kaine Robertson blocked down a Rob Kearney clearance on the stroke of half time.

Winger Mirco Bergamasco and O’Gara exchanged penalties early in the half as the game began to fizzle out of excitement.

O’Driscoll was gaining ground with his expert kicking, while Ireland’s full back, Rob Kearney displayed poor accuracy from the boot which was disappointing by the Leinster player’s high standards.

The Irish never really got into their stride and perhaps next week’s match against France was in the back of their minds during the second half.

Both sides emptied their benches as life was sucked out of the game and Ireland held out for a convincing victory.

It was a decent performance but contained a mixed bag of class and complacency.

David Wallace deservedly collected the RBS Man of the match with an excellent display in the arts of tacking and ball carrying. O’Gara and O’Driscoll were other bright sparks.

Italy battled away in the physical stakes but this side does not possess the quality to defeat. Their line outs in particular were shockingly poor for this level of rugby.

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